Making the Grades
ROLLERBALL IS EURASIA'S ANSWER to North America's WWF wrestling. Outlandish costumes and fabricated player bios bolster the rise of the dangerous new sport that is seeking sponsors. Set in the year 2005, it's fast paced action with bone-jarring hits and breath-stealing body slams between co-ed teams of Rollerballers and motorcyclists played in a confined arena. For Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein), a hot shot kid from San Francisco who's going nowhere, it's a fast avenue to instant fame, big money, and expensive cars.
Skating alongside his teammates, Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) and Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), Cross spends his time entertaining the crowds and consuming the excesses of the high life until the team's owner realizes a little "blood on the track" will up his gambling profits and television ratings. Willing to risk his game pawns, the power-hungry Petrovich (Jean Reno) orchestrates increasingly violent ventures without forewarning the players. Suddenly, the venue becomes a fight to stay alive in a rink that is rigged for "accidents" and devoid of limits.
Families may find the abusive hitting, rough action and jolting collisions pushing their boundaries on need-to-see brutality. Outside of the competition, there are multiple shootings, a kidnapping/murder, and corrupt coercions by former KGB agents. But violence is not the only area in this film that strains at a PG-13 rating. Moderate profanities are peppered throughout the film along with an extreme sexual expletive, hand gestures, and crude terms for sexual relations. Carefully shot nudity in the locker room and within a physical relationship also crowds the margins of acceptable content.
Equally disturbing are the shady and manipulative methods Petrovich uses with businessmen, politicians and religious leaders to gain their support. Meanwhile he preys on the earnings of the impoverished coal miners in his town and threatens the lives of his players.
In a press release, Actor Jean Reno calls the film a "denunciation of violence in sports" that ultimately condemns excessive aggression in all modern games. But as the final match degenerates into a gory gladiatorial battle, viewers may feel Rollerball is more an exploitation of violence than condemnation.